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The Suck Fairy
September 30, 2010 9:12 AM   Subscribe

The Suck Fairy. "The Suck Fairy is an artefact of re-reading. If you read a book for the first time and it sucks, it’s nothing to do with her. It just sucks. Some books do. The Suck Fairy comes in when you come back to a book that you liked when you read it before, and on re-reading—well, it sucks. You can say that you have changed, you can hit your forehead dramatically and ask yourself how you could possibly have missed the suckiness the first time—or you can say that the Suck Fairy has been through while the book was sitting on the shelf and inserted the suck." [Via]
posted by homunculus (168 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
Damn, for a brief, shining moment, I thought that maybe Joey and Carl were getting the band back together.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:17 AM on September 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


There are books I will never read again because I loved them so much the first time -- say, when I was 13 or 14 -- that I don't want my memory tarnished. (Harper Hall of Pern series, I'm lookin' at you.)
posted by KathrynT at 9:18 AM on September 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


The picture they used worries me, because The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is one of those books, and if they're suggesting that it sucks... we'll have problems.
posted by reductiondesign at 9:19 AM on September 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


Most of the time it's just that you're not 14 anymore.
posted by tula at 9:19 AM on September 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is why I read Catcher in the Rye, once, as an adolescent and have never once, not ever, been tempted to read it again.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:20 AM on September 30, 2010


The picture they used worries me, because The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is one of those books, and if they're suggesting that it sucks... we'll have problems.

I just tried rereading this last week for the first time in 8 years. I had the same problem.
:/
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 9:23 AM on September 30, 2010


I don't think there are Suck Fairies as much as there are bad writing fairies. All the re-reading in the world won't make them go away.

I also think it's entirely possible to have one of the Politically Incorrect Fairies that she mentions and still have parts or all of the book be well-written and worth reading, if for no other reason than to educate myself about the ways in which those Politically Incorrect Fairies manifest themselves in even the greatest literature.
posted by blucevalo at 9:25 AM on September 30, 2010


That's great. The Trope fairy has been hanging around me a lot lately.

Friends can conjure the Suck Fairy too. I remember loving Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, but then a friend remarked that while he loved it too but it seemed like a German guy trying really hard to sound all Easterny. Ruined it for me.

"On the Road" had many Suck Fairies for me.
posted by acheekymonkey at 9:25 AM on September 30, 2010


I have solved this problem by remaining perpetually immature.
posted by adipocere at 9:29 AM on September 30, 2010 [13 favorites]


I noticed the Adams too and thought "That's apt."

Sorry. Nothing personal.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:33 AM on September 30, 2010


I fail to see how this outperforms what Walton flags as the "real explanation" for these experiences. This is just fandom cutesiness. If you like it, you like it. But the Suck Fairy preemptively visited it for me.
posted by grobstein at 9:35 AM on September 30, 2010


This is so great that my mind boggles at it. Yes, and yes, and oh yes that one too!
posted by ErikaB at 9:35 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I read On the Road at age 18, which I think is just about the perfect age to find it. But I will never. ever re-read it. The Suck Fairy, she's out there. Waiting.
posted by theinsectsarewaiting at 9:40 AM on September 30, 2010


I read "Stranger in a Strange Land" at sixteen and found it mildly diverting. I read it a second time at twenty-five and was floored by how incredibly good it was and how I had failed to notice this previously. I read it again a few years later and found it hopelessly trite. I read it a fourth time a decade after that and found it indifferent.

I am almost curious to see what would happen if I read it a fifth time.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:42 AM on September 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


I hate to say this, but the second time I read "A Confederacy of Dunces" I though "meh." I should have left it where it sat in my mind.
posted by Gilbert at 9:44 AM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


This happened to me with Fahrenheit 451. The worst part was that when I first read and loved it (I was maybe 17), I immediately logged on to Amazon and wrote a fairly embarrassingly over-earnest "WAKE UP SHEEPLE IT'S HAPPENING NOW" type review that, until pretty recently, would come up in search results when Googling my name. Apparently the internet does sometimes forget, and I am grateful for this small mercy.
posted by hegemone at 9:46 AM on September 30, 2010 [30 favorites]


Happens with music too. I can remember loving an album, evangelizing it to my friends, and wondering why everyone wasn't crazy about it too. After a while I got sick of it from overplaying and put it aside. A couple of years later I took it out and wondered what the hell I was ever thinking.
posted by Daddy-O at 9:51 AM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


It happens around here for me sometimes, "new video game, academic infighting somewhere, really old video game, some stranger died, Apple something something... this sucks." But by now I know its me, I take a walk, read in the park with a cup of coffee, and voila, the suck has lifted.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:55 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


"a fairly embarrassingly over-earnest "WAKE UP SHEEPLE IT'S HAPPENING NOW"

haha. I love those. "Why can't you see it just see it like I see it!?!?!"
posted by acheekymonkey at 9:58 AM on September 30, 2010


ricochet biscuit: I just tore through Stranger for a seminar and it's, umm, a remarkable book. Horrible superman dialogue, certainly trite, explicitly sexist, racist, and homophobic, yet somehow queer. It definitely hasn't aged well, but, it's still an important book. I'll remind you it started a church!
posted by mek at 9:59 AM on September 30, 2010


I'm pretty sure this happens because, on first encounter, sometimes a book or an album is utterly profound. In that, it exposes you to ideas or scenarios or sounds which you've never encountered before quite like that, and it finds resonance.

After taking that in, it becomes a part of you, and perhaps you find that you seek out more in the same vein, or your worldview has deepened in new, exciting ways, and you have a different lens through which you view the world.

Then, much later, you return to that wellspring to renew yourself, and you find that it simply isn't refreshing anymore. Because you've taken in all you can from that work, and incorporated it, and have moved on and become a person affected by and living life through that lens. But the lens now shows you nothing new.

This is why truly great works you can ALWAYS return to. They hold so much, are so complex, create such a world of wonder, that when you revisit, there are whole new vistas opened before you, buried right there in the same work you loved before, only you didn't see them then because you were learning a whole different set of things the first time around.

But if there's only really one thing to gain from a work, then once you've internalized it, there's nothing more there to be found. And if the piece itself is kind of trite other than that one great idea, then later all you see is the triteness.
posted by hippybear at 10:00 AM on September 30, 2010 [26 favorites]


The Sucks Fairy is a messenger from the Classics Gods.
posted by stbalbach at 10:02 AM on September 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


This is why I read Catcher in the Rye, once, as an adolescent and have never once, not ever, been tempted to read it again.

I've read Catcher several times and indeed found it suckier the second time I read it, but I liked it better on subsequent readings and am now at a point where I like it possibly even more than I did when I read it for the first time. I think it's because while whatever Holden is dealing with seems like an adolescent problem, it's really not something you ever get past.
posted by ekroh at 10:05 AM on September 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


I read On the Road at age 18, which I think is just about the perfect age to find it. But I will never. ever re-read it.

"On the Road" had many Suck Fairies for me.


totally opposite experience for me. I started it once about age 18, got maybe eighty pages in and concluded that it was just some guy talking about traveling around, and various friends, sounding like a cliche of a beatnik doofus (the like of which would be laughed at on some TV sitcom) -- no real magic at all.

Then about ten years later, because I'd been told one too many times that I was WRONG about it, I picked it up and started again (literally from where I left off -- page 80 or something). I was smitten. I fell in love. Read it all through, easy, then kept on going, started again and re-read the original 80 pages, then what the hell, kept on going again to the end.

That book UNsucked for me.
posted by philip-random at 10:06 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Suck Fairy (and some of the technology not aging well) strafed Snow Crash pretty bad when I re-read it a couple months ago. Still crammed with neat ideas, but sheesh.
posted by Scoo at 10:20 AM on September 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


There's a saying, that the "golden age" of science fiction is 12.
posted by mhoye at 10:21 AM on September 30, 2010 [19 favorites]


Would I be stoned to death if I admitted that the original three Star Wars movies have this effect with me?
posted by Aizkolari at 10:25 AM on September 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


I hate to say this, but the second time I read "A Confederacy of Dunces" I though "meh."

I tried to pick it up after 20 years and had the same problem. I got through the factory riot scene (which is fantastic), but just lost interest.

I'm not a prolific re-reader (though I did re-read the entire Pynchon catalog last year). 99% of books I read once.

I just tore through Stranger for a seminar and it's, umm, a remarkable book.

There is one book I definitely will not re-read. I remember (at age 16) quite enjoying the free-love aspects of that book, but yeah, the whole christ story was convoluted and mostly cheesy.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:25 AM on September 30, 2010


Is the book at the bottom of the stack in the picture The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales? If that one has been visited by the Suck Fairy since I was 8 or so, I'm not sure I want to go on living.
posted by naoko at 10:26 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Suck Fairy (and some of the technology not aging well) strafed Snow Crash pretty bad when I re-read it a couple months ago. Still crammed with neat ideas, but sheesh.

Came here to say exactly this - I remember how the lower half of my face actually ached from being in a perpetual near-grin the first time I read this book - it was that good. And then, yes! I tried to read it again recently and found that she had come and made it suck!

That bitch.
posted by kcds at 10:30 AM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Of course, there isn’t really a Suck Fairy

Oh. Right. I was actually putting going to put cookies (snickerdoodles) out for her or something until I got to that part. So she wouldn't suck up my books.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 10:34 AM on September 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Rereading Tom Robbins as an adult reminded me of talking to a stoned creative writing student while not being stoned myself.
posted by bibliowench at 10:39 AM on September 30, 2010 [25 favorites]


Hitchhiker's Guide would be my #1 pick, but Charlie and the Chocolate Factory wouldn't be far behind. And you could probably throw almost all of the crappy fantasy paperbacks I read as a teenager in there too, except I'm never going to read them again.

As an aside, I like Bill Simmons' idea for The Sucket List: "Things you never thought you would ever do. And you regret it even as it's happening." I'm not sure what the #1 item on that list would be for me, but for my wife it would definitely be tubing. I'm never going to live down talking her into doing that...
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:42 AM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I grew up with Star Trek: TNG and for many years thought it was the greatest TV show ever. Now that I'm older I'm revisiting it and... while I wouldn't say it sucks, its weaknesses are a lot more apparent. All the technobabble seemed smart and sophisticated when I was a kid, but now it's obviously just a lazy MacGuffin. I used to love Data but he's actually pretty annoying (and surprisingly inconsistent). Troi's pointlessness as a character, or maybe just her under-utilization by the writers, is glaringly evident now too.

The series did have its high points, especially in the second half of its run. The first couple seasons are gimmicky and aimless though, with a one-dimensional cast that rarely escaped caricatured archetypes (Worf's an angry brute, Wesley's a whiny prodigy, Riker's a dashing man-in-uniform). Sometimes it seems like Picard was the only interesting one holding the show together; Patrick Stewart deserves credit there, just for being Patrick Stewart. LeVar Burton did a commendable job too, keeping La Forge believable even in some really inane situations.

I still enjoy the show as a whole. But yeah, retrospect brings clarity. It doesn't just apply to books.

But H2G2 and Ender's Game are impervious to the Suck Fairy and will be forever!
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 10:44 AM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can't think of this having happened to me, but, then, I'm not much for rereading. Heinlein I do reread, and while they've certainly been visited by the Sexism fairy since I was a teenager, I can still take pleasure in the good parts I liked the first time. (The worst of Heinlein even teenaged me recognized as bad the first time through.)

But I've been planning to reread Hitchhiker's... we'll see how that goes.
posted by Zed at 10:46 AM on September 30, 2010


Because I had to know- the books in the image* are:

Kingsover: High Tide in Tuscon
Niffenegger: Time traveler's wife
Kingsolver: The Poisonwood Bible
Franzen: The Corrections
McClanahan: Famous people I have known
Gibson: Pattern recognition
Silverstein: The Giving Tree
D. Adams: more than complete hitchhikers guide
Rawling: Harry potter & the half cooked book
Van Allsburg: The Polar Express
Smith: The Stinky Cheese man and other Fairly Stupid Tales

*CC license image randomly appropriated by TOR: apparently its of a librarian of some sort.
posted by zenon at 10:53 AM on September 30, 2010


explicitly sexist, racist, and homophobic, yet somehow queer

This is a great description of what's right and wrong with Heinlein's amateur-philosopher streak. He had a wonderful imagination for ways in which people could satisfy all sorts of socially unacceptable desires — and yet he was totally clueless about what ordinary people superficially different from him might actually want.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:55 AM on September 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


Rereading Tom Robbins as an adult reminded me of talking to a stoned creative writing student while not being stoned myself.

Re-reading Mark Leyner does that to me, except the student is coked up.
posted by cog_nate at 10:55 AM on September 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


I recently got a surprise visit from the Suck Fairy; I really appreciate the article's description of the phenomenon.

I'd thought I'd gone insane, rereading 'The House of Leaves.' When I read it a decade ago, it was a towering work: Frightening, an incredible satire of the academic lit culture I was immersed in, a nightmare of semiotics that would doubtlessly prove to be a classic.

As of a few weeks ago, it had transmogrified into a masturbatory wank fest that practically included a 'See, check it out, just like Borges' stamp on every page. Faked up photos from a faked up documentary? How quaint.

I'm unsure if this represents an evolution of my tastes, or a sad commentary on what a decade of corporate wonkishness does to your soul.

Best to believe in The Suck Fairy.
posted by mrdaneri at 10:55 AM on September 30, 2010 [10 favorites]


Two that come immediately to my mind:

Time Enough For Love
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance


I read them both in high school they blew me away.
Now they just kind of blow.
posted by Ratio at 10:56 AM on September 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


On reading it as an adult, the titular character in The Giving Tree seems like a doormat.
posted by condour75 at 10:59 AM on September 30, 2010 [9 favorites]


Also, good lord, children's books... James and the Giant Peach, The Phantom Tollbooth, The Westing Game, Island of the Blue Dolphins, a Wrinkle in Time ...

I wouldn't even want to open Bridge to Terabithia. Some memories are too golden to tarnish.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:01 AM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think the suck fairy can apply to both musical albums and movies as well.

And then there's Star Wars, which has a suck fairy in George Lucas's instinct to repeatedly make good work even more crappy.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:10 AM on September 30, 2010


The solution is to keep an evergrowing queue of unread books, sorted by maturity, so that you never reread anything.

But man, did the Suck Fairy slap the new Star Wars movies hard.
posted by qvantamon at 11:15 AM on September 30, 2010


I got sick of it from overplaying and put it aside. A couple of years later I took it out and wondered what the hell I was ever thinking.

This happened to me recently with "Venus and Mars" by Paul McCartney.
posted by mmrtnt at 11:17 AM on September 30, 2010


I'm pretty sure this happens because, on first encounter, sometimes a book or an album is utterly profound.

Yeah. It's like the inverse of "Guilty Pleasusers", in that, I love the first three "Grand Funk" albums because I first heard them when I was 15-16. I know they're crap, but I LURVE them!
posted by mmrtnt at 11:19 AM on September 30, 2010


rereading 'The House of Leaves.' When I read it a decade ago, it was a towering work: Frightening, an incredible satire of the academic lit culture I was immersed in

oh, so that's why I couldn't make any sense out of that book.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:22 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Phantom Tollbooth

You take that back. Seriously, this seems like a case of simply growing up, not that the book actually sucked and you didn't realize it. Some kid's books really are kid's books, that doesn't make them bad.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:23 AM on September 30, 2010 [8 favorites]


Rereading Tom Robbins as an adult...

Thanks for the heads-up. I'll have to try that soon.
posted by mmrtnt at 11:23 AM on September 30, 2010


Yeah the first time I read Infinite Jest I was in college and was blown away. Then I read it again five years later and noticed some weird structural problem. I read it again about a decade later and none of the problems seemed to manifest themselves, and I felt a new and deep appreciation for the characterization. The next time I read it, about twenty years after that, it seemed to have taken on a lot of tics that dated it badly, but then when I read it yet again five years after that, the dating didn't seem like a bad thing, any more than anything in Dickens. Since then I've read Infinite Jest about once every three years, and it continues to wait what the hell year is it?
posted by shakespeherian at 11:24 AM on September 30, 2010 [27 favorites]


I grew up with Star Trek: TNG and for many years thought it was the greatest TV show ever.

I watched 10 minutes of TNG once. I saw Geordi(sp?) and thought, "that man has a chrome air-cleaner stuck to his face" and never watched again.
posted by mmrtnt at 11:26 AM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


You know, I just came back to this thread, and I find myself removing a lot of favorites...
posted by Kabanos at 11:28 AM on September 30, 2010 [23 favorites]


Time Enough For Love

Oh Christ. Don't get me started on Heinlein. He pretty much wrote the same book over and over. There was always one wizened male character, who has seen it all and done it all, some younger male characters who are virile, good looking, brave, but a bit dumb, and then a bevy of females, all of whom happen to be bisexual.
posted by Danf at 11:29 AM on September 30, 2010 [13 favorites]


Rereading Tom Robbins as an adult...

I only first read Robbins as an adult, a few years ago, with Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates. Rocked my world. One of my favorite books. The other Robbins I've read since haven't done nearly as much for me, but I look forward to reading the rest of them anyway.
posted by Zed at 11:31 AM on September 30, 2010


'See, check it out, just like Borges' stamp on every page.

I thought it was Paul Auster. Which still follows, I guess, because Auster was doing Borges.

So what about the Awesome Fairy? The one that makes things more awesome with each re-reading?

Saul Bellow, anyone?
posted by clarknova at 11:33 AM on September 30, 2010


Oh, also, A Separate Peace.
posted by clarknova at 11:36 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


This happened to me with The Prince of Tides and The Eyes of the Dragon. So sad.
posted by SloppyTree at 11:37 AM on September 30, 2010


I grew up with Star Trek: TNG and for many years thought it was the greatest TV show ever. Now that I'm older I'm revisiting it and... while I wouldn't say it sucks, its weaknesses are a lot more apparent. All the technobabble seemed smart and sophisticated when I was a kid, but now it's obviously just a lazy MacGuffin. I used to love Data but he's actually pretty annoying (and surprisingly inconsistent). Troi's pointlessness as a character, or maybe just her under-utilization by the writers, is glaringly evident now too.


I've had a weird progression with TNG. Adored it in college; spent maybe 10 years really not liking it because of all of the weaknesses you mention. Lately, I've really started enjoying it again (at least past Season 2) even though the faults are still apparent. They still matter, but I guess I'm learning to enjoy things despite their faults.
posted by COBRA! at 11:41 AM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Suck Fairy always rifles through my music collection. Then again, so does the Blow Fairy. We constantly reinterpret art through the window of our own accumulated experiences.
posted by not_on_display at 11:42 AM on September 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


you could probably throw almost all of the crappy fantasy paperbacks I read as a teenager in there too, except I'm never going to read them again.

I have a box of these I've been planning on revisiting, partly because I adored a few of them (Barker's Weaveworld; Straub and King's The Talisman, and some others), and partly because of the claustrophobia/nyctophobia induced by Minecraft, which brings back memories of Barbara Hambly's "Darwath Trilogy" (The Time of the Dark, The Walls of Air, and The Armies of Daylight). But I wonder if they're any good at all or if they suck suck suck. Hmm. I need to find out.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:43 AM on September 30, 2010


I recently got a surprise visit from the Suck Fairy; I really appreciate the article's description of the phenomenon.

I'd thought I'd gone insane, rereading 'The House of Leaves.' When I read it a decade ago, it was a towering work: Frightening, an incredible satire of the academic lit culture I was immersed in, a nightmare of semiotics that would doubtlessly prove to be a classic.

As of a few weeks ago, it had transmogrified into a masturbatory wank fest that practically included a 'See, check it out, just like Borges' stamp on every page. Faked up photos from a faked up documentary? How quaint.


Heh.

Your second read through was my first read through.
posted by Artw at 11:48 AM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


(His latest novel is in the shape of a cat or something or other)
posted by Artw at 11:49 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's not a chrome air-cleaner; it's a 1980s-style banana clip (not that I know that because I'd wear mine and pretend I was blind).
posted by hydrobatidae at 11:50 AM on September 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


"The other Robbins I've read since haven't done nearly as much for me"

We had a theory in college that people's first Tom Robbins book was always their favorite. Mine was Jitterbug Perfume.
posted by acheekymonkey at 11:52 AM on September 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


Oh Christ. Don't get me started on Heinlein. He pretty much wrote the same book over and over. There was always one wizened male character, who has seen it all and done it all, some younger male characters who are virile, good looking, brave, but a bit dumb, and then a bevy of females, all of whom happen to be bisexual.

My own take on Heinlein, reposted from a earlier thread:

A wealthy character meets a hot wealthy character of the opposite sex and they find themselves on the run with a sassy computer/AI and they use resources previously stashed to get by (even in other dimensions) and one of them runs into an old teacher that was prepared for such an eventuality.
posted by sourwookie at 11:54 AM on September 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


> The Suck Fairy always rifles through my music collection.

When it comes to music, my Suck Fairy is more of a Suck Grim Reaper. And not one of those friendly Sandman-style Grim Reapers...this one is straight out of a book Cormac McCarthy wrote but didn't publish because he thought it was too depressing. THERE IS NO MERCY IN THIS WORLD.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:59 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


There was always one wizened male character, who has seen it all and done it all, some younger male characters who are virile, good looking, brave, but a bit dumb, and then a bevy of females, all of whom happen to be bisexual.

A wealthy character meets a hot wealthy character of the opposite sex and they find themselves on the run with a sassy computer/AI and they use resources previously stashed to get by (even in other dimensions) and one of them runs into an old teacher that was prepared for such an eventuality.


TANSTASANS?

There Ain't No Such Thing As A New Story
posted by mmrtnt at 12:02 PM on September 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh man, I was wondering who removed the badassery from my Brisco County Jr DVDs.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:04 PM on September 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


My own sense of disappointment in "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy" comes from a somewhat different source than the usual phenomenon of re-reading a book with a new perspective. HGG was originally a BBC broadcast (which I have on tape, all 12 episodes) and it was delightfully acted. Consequently it came to life in a way that the book just didn't. I will add that subsequent TV and movie versions never came up to the standard of the BBC original, which remains the best version.

But other than that, I am certainly familiar with the fact that when a book is read again after a passage of years, it may seem quite different than it did when it was originally read. This is particularly true in the science fiction genre. SF does not really try to predict the future, it merely speculates about possible futures, but even so, what appeared to be a reasonable speculation at the time it was made will often appear much less reasonable when the future does arrive.
posted by grizzled at 12:06 PM on September 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


I was in the public library the other day, and saw Catch-22 in the Young Adult section, right there with those pink-covered Gossip Club books or whatever they're called, and the Twilight books.

That's got to be a sure sign that it's been kissed by the sweet wand of the Suck Fairy.
posted by Cookiebastard at 12:07 PM on September 30, 2010


TANSTAANS

grumble, grumble...
posted by mmrtnt at 12:08 PM on September 30, 2010


My own take on Heinlein: he wrote more than 40 books over the course of almost 50 years and if you've read them all, he's really not as easy to sum up as people often make him out to be.
posted by Zed at 12:08 PM on September 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


The Suck Fairy has clearly been living in episodes of Max Headroom.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:08 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


A lot of people listing books that sucked the second time through here, but I think it would be interesting to spend a little more time thinking about *why* they seem to suck. The implication in a lot of people's posts is that these were essentially books for children -- or perhaps worse, adolescents -- and once you outgrow the writing ability of the author, there's no going back. Presumably the implication here is not that it's rereading per se, but that you've just "grown up"; were you to read Stranger in a Strange Land today for the first time ever, it would still suck because you've outgrown Heinlein, regardless of whether you read SSL when you were a kid.

Then there are other books where you might actually like them if you read them the first time right now, even if you suspect you would dislike them if you reread them a few years later. I'm not sure what falls under that category though, maybe something like Snow Crash where the ideas, when new, are pretty exciting whatever your age, and then once you go through a second time the ideas are old hat and there's nothing to distract you from the more traditional failure of writing in the book. Also maybe books where the mechanisms behind the scenes become progressively more obvious as you read more of the book, or more books by the same author.

But it seems worth distinguishing these two critiques, since one is simply saying yeah, the book truly does suck, I just didn't realize it the first time because I was a kid. The second, though, is saying that the book has its flaws, but also has some pretty interesting innovations that make up for the flaws the first time through; it may not last through re-reading the way traditional great literature does, but that's not to say that it truly does suck, just that it has a different type of appeal. I myself find this to be the case with almost all books that are idea-driven, whether they are SF, modernist or postmodernist; or even books that are heavily plot-driven, like mysteries or thrillers, which rely heavily on red herrings and plot twists. Such books can be damn mind-blowing if you haven't had the ideas before, but they don't really bear rereading. It's not so much the Suck Fairy as the Disappointment Fairy, until you come to learn which sorts of books you should bother rereading. But that's much more about the process of experiencing these books, not about whether they suck in some independent way.

That said, this can also be applied a bit to the books of the first category. They are designed to be read by children, and as such, do their job wonderfully; and when read by adults, they don't work so well. But again, that's not really to say they suck, it's just the nature of the art. I myself have enjoyed rereading many children's books (eg, Diana Wynne Jones, William Sleator, John Christopher) which have a double-whammy: written for children, plus they're idea-driven SF whose ideas naturally lose their novelty the second time through. But they still can produce that sense of wonder (and purity of political passion, in many cases) that much adult literature has abandoned; the flaws are manifest, but so are the attractions, even reread.

But that's just me; I'm sure others have different accounts of why those that suck on the rereading do. Hopefully the cutesy name won't prevent thinking about what seems to me an interesting question.
posted by chortly at 12:09 PM on September 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


Who rereads books? What, have you already read all the books?
posted by Eideteker at 12:12 PM on September 30, 2010 [17 favorites]


Definitely Donald Barthelme's Snow White. Or anything else where the defining characteristic is "postmodern" over, say, the story's actual plot. Seems like the Suck Fairy's main job seems to be pointing out how pretentious I was in high school and college.

I hate myself for loving House of Leaves. omg the check mark on page 97 he totally knew!!!
posted by giraffe at 12:19 PM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


So...this is not the James Dyson thread then?
posted by everichon at 12:19 PM on September 30, 2010


Who rereads books? What, have you already read all the books?
posted by Eideteker at 2:12 PM on September 30 [+] [!]


I'd be curious if you apply this logic to, say, relationships with people. Or food.
posted by Green With You at 12:23 PM on September 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


I reread books. Was I supposed to read all of them first? There's a bunch that I don't want to read. The Haynes Toyota Sienna Repair Manual for 1998 thru 2009 probably has a lot of useful information for somebody, but probably not me. Similarly, I get something useful or entertaining or moving every time I reread Moby Dick, so I might as well read it again.
posted by Cookiebastard at 12:31 PM on September 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Definitely Donald Barthelme's Snow White

You take that back right now.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:34 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure this happens because, on first encounter, sometimes a book or an album is utterly profound. In that, it exposes you to ideas or scenarios or sounds which you've never encountered before quite like that, and it finds resonance.

Yes, that's it exactly. Star Trek: TNG is rife with horrible writing, two-dimensional characters, and laughable plots. But when I was a geeky teenager watching it in the late 80s early 90s, it was revelatory. I mean, if you've never seen science fiction done well (and let's be honest, how often is it done well?) and you're a geeky teenager, it's just "Holy shit! Replicators! Aliens! Androids! So cool!" And if all you know is religious fundamentalism and insipid "mainstream" morality, the secular humanism that runs through the series is awesome. Even when you notice the bad writing, who cares?

When I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I had no clue about Eastern philosophies or religion. Just getting inside this weird genius's head and seeing a worldview utterly unlike anything I'd ever encountered blew my mind. And it launched me on a multiyear journey of learning all about Zen and meditation and mindfulness that was similarly totally new to me. And my mind was expanded. But you know what? The Suck fairy has visited Buddhism for me now, too.

When I read Tom Robbins, I didn't know anyone who (I knew) took drugs. Not one person. And I hadn't read anybody who wrote like him. And I hadn't read anybody who was so blatantly mocking of organized religion. So, again, mind-blowing.

I guess my point is, if it blows your mind, you kind of ignore all the sucky stuff. When you come back to it, having incorporated the ideas that were mind-blowing when you read them, all that's left is the suck. And a little nostalgia.
posted by callmejay at 12:34 PM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


On Hitchhiker's Guide:

The thing about the Suck Fairy phenomenon is that she doesn't just affect those works that are facile and faddish. She also affects those things that are filled with flashes of brilliance and greatness. When you first read them and get them, your brain expands a little bit. Over time however, as your mind colonizes those new spaces opened up by the work, you become used to the greatness. You go back to them and they don't seem as great, largely because they grew your brain a bit and you've loved them for so long. The insights they offered you before seem old hat now. It doesn't necessarily mean the original is bad; you've just moved beyond it. Hitchhiker's greatness largely resides in its asides and observations about the world; the actual structure is rambling and directionless, so beneath the jokes there is not a great deal of depth. But that's okay, because the jokes are still really damn great.

Radio and TV are a bit more immune to this than literature. If you've become bored with the Hitchhiker's books, try searching out the original radio programs.
posted by JHarris at 12:40 PM on September 30, 2010 [17 favorites]


(Or, largely, what chortly said.)
posted by JHarris at 12:42 PM on September 30, 2010


Re-reading John Irving's books in adulthood left me meh. It had all been so laugh-out-loud funny in eight grade..
posted by marimeko at 12:43 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


At first glace at the FPP I thought to myself, "This is why I'm reluctant to re-read The Corrections." Interesting that it's in the photo...
posted by exogenous at 12:48 PM on September 30, 2010


Yeah the first time I read Infinite Jest I was in college and was blown away. Then I read it again five years later and noticed some weird structural problem. I read it again about a decade later and none of the problems seemed to manifest themselves, and I felt a new and deep appreciation for the characterization. The next time I read it, about twenty years after that-


Infinite Jest? Copyright 1995?
posted by Ndwright at 12:59 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


-since then I've read Infinite Jest about once every three years, and it continues to wait what the hell year is it?

Ohhhhhhhh, NOW I get it. Well played.
posted by Ndwright at 1:00 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cookiebastard: The Haynes Toyota Sienna Repair Manual for 1998 thru 2009 probably has a lot of useful information for somebody, but probably not me.

Dude, are you serious? It's got action, adventure, drama, graphic dismemberments...
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:01 PM on September 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


Ohhhhhhhh, NOW I get it. Well played.

I especially enjoyed the part where you didn't even finish reading my comment before you responded.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:08 PM on September 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


The Suck fairy has visited Buddhism for me now, too.

Oh, good grief. Buddhism should not be held accountable for the sucktacular Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. That'd be like saying Judaism had been visited by the Suck Fairy because forty years ago a Japanese man wrote a pop novel based on his willful twisting of his half-understanding of it.
posted by Zed at 1:19 PM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Juno got hit by the suck fairy on the way from the movie reel to the bluray disk i watched it. Yet i still wear (and am wearing) the shirt that i got at the screening.

But it's not a book.
posted by djduckie at 1:22 PM on September 30, 2010


A lot of people listing books that sucked the second time through here, but I think it would be interesting to spend a little more time thinking about *why* they seem to suck.

For me, this tends to happen because, when I was a kid, what was most important to me was plot. I didn't much care -- or even notice -- if the characters were cartoonish, the dialog was clunky and the prosemanship was terrible. For instance, I probably would have loved "The Davinci Code" had it been around when I was a teenager. Alas, I read it as an adult -- an adult who has read F. Scott Fizgerald and Shakespeare (and also good middle-brow writers like Le Carre and Dan Simmons) -- and hated it, because I was constantly aware of the clunky writing.

Basically, as a kid, I wasn't attuned to nuance. I just saw the big picture. Now, if the nuances aren't perfect, I notice.

I real a lot of sci-fi by pulp writers when I was a kid, and I loved it. I know better than to reread it now. I'd rather remember it.
posted by grumblebee at 1:25 PM on September 30, 2010


Oh, good grief. Buddhism should not be held accountable for the sucktacular Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. That'd be like saying Judaism had been visited by the Suck Fairy because forty years ago a Japanese man wrote a pop novel based on his willful twisting of his half-understanding of it.

You misunderstood. Buddhism was visited by the Suck Fairy (for me!) only after several years' of reading actual Buddhist writers, etc. (Judaism was visited by that fairy for me years earlier when I first began to learn about other religions and philosophies.)
posted by callmejay at 1:39 PM on September 30, 2010


Oh dear, I don't ever want to read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance again. Read it and loved it in high school. It's staying exactly there.

I reread books all the time. I won't keep books in my library if they don't survive the test of second reading (that said, I have a very small, very author-specific library). The few that got touched by the Suck Fairy recently were Glass Bead Game (Hesse) and This Side of Paradise.
posted by hopeless romantique at 1:44 PM on September 30, 2010


I bought a book once for a girl I was babysitting - The Egypt Game, which was my favorite book growing up. Turned out she already owned it, so I kept it for a while and reread it. Talk about over-remembering the details: the picture I had in my head from when I read it as a kid was so much more beautiful, more intricate, more interesting, than the actual book.
posted by hopeless romantique at 1:51 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, Suck Fairy. I hate you for what you did to Foucault's Pendulum. It was amazing, mind-blowing, a whole alternate reality that was, at the same time, really maybe real!

But then a decade on, I discover that if you know all of the hermetic myth already, the whole book is an infodump with a really feeble plot and boring characters. Like a slightly better written episode of "History's Mysteries."

mrdaneri: I think you're too hard on House of Leaves. The first time: Holy shit this is amazing. The second time you notice that it's a little... thin. There's one idea to it, basically, explored at greater-than-necessary length. You also know that there isn't gong to really be an "answer," so the propulsive power of looking for it is gone. Nevertheless, I still think it's a well-written book that has the power to create a certain mood, which I think is the point of it.

But it is a book that doesn't strongly reward re-reading.

And god, Only Revolutions was a massive pile of suck.

(Also: Confederacy of Dunces was never good. It took me three tries to even get through it, and I wish I hadn't made the effort.)
posted by rusty at 1:51 PM on September 30, 2010


Who rereads books? What, have you already read all the books?

I've been encountering more and more people with this attitude over the past few years. I find it pretty bizarre, but it's not as alarming as people who don't have any books at all in their entire house in any format. Those people are bad people.
posted by elizardbits at 2:08 PM on September 30, 2010 [8 favorites]


Niffenegger: Time traveler's wife

Was it somewhere here I that someone posted a link to an article about about books you just can't read twice? Not because they suck, it was something more nuanced than that. Casting about for something to read a few months ago, I tried Time Traveler's Wife and Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norell, both of which I really enjoyed a few years ago...and they were both unreadable for me. Not bad, exactly, it wasn't a suck fairy situation--I just couldn't get into them.
posted by not that girl at 2:19 PM on September 30, 2010


Rereading Tom Robbins as an adult reminded me of talking to a stoned creative writing student while not being stoned myself.

My 17-year-old niece is reading Tom Robbins and posting deep quotes from him as Facebook updates. I have a journal from when I was about that age full of copied-out quotes from his work, too. He was so deep back then.
posted by not that girl at 2:23 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the Suck Fairy has beaten me to many books before I even started them, say, the last fifteen years.

Remember that episode of Frasier?
posted by Xoebe at 2:24 PM on September 30, 2010


I recently reread the Uncle books by JP Morgan, borrowing the same copies from the public library I had borrowed thirty-*koff* years before. And they were still fricking awesome. Sometimes you can go Homeward again.
posted by Sparx at 2:25 PM on September 30, 2010


I started reading the Wheel of Time series in 5th grade and was totally immersed in it. Kind of lost interest in them during middle school, but I always had a fond memory of them.

Fast forward to junior year in High School and hearing that Robert Jordan died, I decided to reread the series from the start and then catch up with the new books.

I was reading Pynchon, DeLillo, and Saramago during high school. Remember I had just finished House of Leaves and was blown away by it, but I thought a fun fantasy would be a nice break.

The suck fairy showed up hard and I was blown away by how horrible the characterization was in the novels. No one acted like a real person and everything they did just annoyed me. Someone mentioned earlier that the plot is more important to a younger reader than the characters and I think that's definitely true. They did not hold up well with age. Really a shame too since I had remembered it as an excellent series and was disappointed with how it turned out.
posted by Allan Gordon at 2:26 PM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


"I'd be curious if you apply this logic to, say, relationships with people. Or food."

I do not re-read people or foods, no.
posted by Eideteker at 2:35 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Who rereads books? What, have you already read all the books?

It rereading can be an interesting process.

With something you love, the suck fairy can indeed visit: Your expectations are high, there's little in the way of surprises (though there may be one or two "oh!" moments as something clicks) and you might be more inclined to be super picky and critical with it.

But then again, rereading a second time can produce an opposite effect: You've got realistic expectations, you're more likely to take the work for what it is and appreciate the elements that are of their time in your stride, maybe see how it works in it's cultural context.
posted by Artw at 2:39 PM on September 30, 2010


One word: Illuminatus!
posted by No-sword at 2:44 PM on September 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


105 comments without a single Ayn Rand????
posted by Cobalt at 2:59 PM on September 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Illuminatus!

Oh my, that's really not going to stand up well, is it?
posted by Artw at 3:01 PM on September 30, 2010


One word: Illuminatus!

On the bright side, I imagine I'll get far more of the references than I did when I was 16.
posted by Zed at 3:06 PM on September 30, 2010


I always likened it to coming home to the house I grew up in; it seems smaller as time passes.
posted by everichon at 3:06 PM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


it's kind of trite to say, but if a book's not worth reading twice, it's not worth reading once
posted by rollick at 3:08 PM on September 30, 2010


In some books I loved and tore through on the first read, I've re-read and realized I glossed over and missed (or forgot) significant passages.

*CC license image randomly appropriated by TOR

I think Flickr is seen as a freebie source of great photos for articles by many websites, cutting costs on paying for photo rights. Sadly, the photo subtitle clashes with the topic: "my most favorite books (I had to leave many, many out...)" - I would think those books were full of anti-suck fairies for this librarian.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:11 PM on September 30, 2010


105 comments without a single Ayn Rand????


No, the book had to be good the first time you read it, then sucked at a later time. Not the other way around...
posted by Chuffy at 3:13 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Phantom Tollbooth

You take that back. Seriously, this seems like a case of simply growing up, not that the book actually sucked and you didn't realize it. Some kid's books really are kid's books, that doesn't make them bad.


I didn't say those books sucked now. I think they are still all awesome.

I'm just saying I don't want to make the mistake of reading them again to confirm their awesomeness. ;)

The Sober Fairy visited me during my re-reading of Stone Junction. Not as entertaining. (Still a great book, though!)
posted by mrgrimm at 3:32 PM on September 30, 2010


I tried Time Traveler's Wife and Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norell, both of which I really enjoyed a few years ago...and they were both unreadable for me.

JSaMR is sitting a couple feet from me, as yet unread. Makes me wonder if it's the timing or the repetition or what. (of course bad timing for you doesn't mean bad timing for me)

The original Dune is the only book that ever vastly improved with time/age/perspective for me. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? There was never a time when I didn't think it was rubbish.

HHGTHG, though? Really? Really really? Not that I've re-read it, just... huh.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:45 PM on September 30, 2010


Rusty, maybe try reading FP again.

It is an info dump of conspiracy theory nonsense, but the point is to point out the flaws in conspiratorial thought itself.

Eco is a semiotician, and he's careful with ideas. Pay attention to all the ways that people confuse symbols with reality and the map with the territory.
posted by empath at 3:57 PM on September 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


> On reading it as an adult, the titular character in The Giving Tree seems like a doormat.

I always thought that tree needed to get some fucking boundaries.
posted by Squeak Attack at 4:16 PM on September 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


I especially enjoyed the part where you didn't even finish reading my comment before you responded.

I finished reading it, I just didn't "get" it. Infinite Jest is a cyclical novel that, in theory, goes on forever. You've read it so many times it's utterly distorted your conception of the passage of time. Didn't realize that until the reread of your comment.

(Or I'm just beanplating. DFW tends to bring that out in people.)
posted by Ndwright at 4:24 PM on September 30, 2010


The Suck Fairy visited White Wolf roleplaying shortly after college, which saddened me. Also, I see her hovering in every single comic book store -- the places I used to love when I was young, which now just make me achy and sad.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:34 PM on September 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Is it the comics on the racks, Countess, or something about the stores themselves?
posted by Zed at 4:36 PM on September 30, 2010


Oh Christ. Don't get me started on Heinlein. He pretty much wrote the same book over and over. There was always one wizened male character, who has seen it all and done it all, some younger male characters who are virile, good looking, brave, but a bit dumb, and then a bevy of females, all of whom happen to be bisexual.

Weird. I think I might be Robert Heinlein.
posted by philip-random at 4:47 PM on September 30, 2010


Juno got hit by the suck fairy on the way from the movie reel to the bluray disk i watched it.

That happened to me somewhere between the halfway point of the movie and the end. What a soft, wet, annoying way to resolve things! Have the baby, give it to some weirdly uptight pre-helicopter-mom, go and sing soft songs with Michael Cera.
posted by philip-random at 4:54 PM on September 30, 2010


For me, The Invisibles became pretty unreadable after high school, despite having loved it immensely and having reread the entire series multiple times during that period. Maybe someday I'll give it another go.
posted by Muttoneer at 5:00 PM on September 30, 2010


Zed, some of it's the comics, but the first thing is the smell. I'm not even kidding. I know all about confirmation bias. But whenever I go into the local comic shop, one I loved during high school -- or even if I just go into the Graphic Novel section at Borders -- it hits me -- the smell of unwashed nerd. And I just feel a thousand times too old to be there. I feel like my mom must have felt when I was telling her, "No, really, Sandman is literature! You have to try it!"
posted by Countess Elena at 5:03 PM on September 30, 2010


It is crazy to me how many of the books or authors listed in this thread were the first ones that came to mind when I read the FPP. And none of them were children's books. It's like there's some objective quality that makes some books susceptible.
posted by nev at 5:30 PM on September 30, 2010


The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
posted by lunit at 6:42 PM on September 30, 2010


I think the Suck Fairy used to have a job in the '70s on Saturday mornings.
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:50 PM on September 30, 2010


The Suck Fairy must get tired of Kerouac.
posted by Mael Oui at 6:59 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am happy to report that The Hobbit must have anti-suck elven mithril around it, because the Suck Fairy didn't make it there.

Now The Silmarillion, that's another story.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:03 PM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I think The Silmarillion is sitting at the very top of the list of Books I Will Never Have Time For Again.
posted by COBRA! at 7:14 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I think The Silmarillion is sitting at the very top of the list of Books I Will Never Have Time For Again.

Seconded.
posted by JHarris at 7:43 PM on September 30, 2010


At this particular stage in my life, it's not so much about the Suck Fairy as about "my life is currently stressful enough without devoting a week to reading a book that will depress the shit out of me (cough, McCarthy, cough) or enrage me with its stupidity (most genre fiction)."

This cuts out a lot of what's out there.

It is not the most literary of filtering systems, but it's working quite well. When I do take risks on new authors, I tend to try out short stories and graphic novels; that way, even if the Suck Fairy shows up (which she may have on the Fables series, which has some messed-up sexist shit and a weird Zionist streak), she can't taunt me as much about all the hours I wasted reading crap.
posted by emjaybee at 7:45 PM on September 30, 2010


Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke where the gods of my childhood. Today, decades on, I still admire them, in the way that I admire Jules Verne and H G Wells. They were of their time, and their writing is a precious time capsule of a future that has since faded. They are not gods to me now, but merely men. But they were good men, for all their faults.
posted by SPrintF at 8:09 PM on September 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel is eternal, however. Suck on that, Suck Fairy!
posted by SPrintF at 8:20 PM on September 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


Because I had to know- the books in the image* are:

Kingsover: High Tide in Tuscon


Nobody can spell Tucson... it's a curse.
posted by atomicmedia at 8:24 PM on September 30, 2010


Who rereads books?

Only people interested in books, I suppose.

There is also an Anti-Suck Fairy. I and everyone I know who has ever read Lord Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter (not an unwieldy list, I grant you) has had the same experience: the first time, it is so overwritten and mannnered, it is impossible to get more than a few chapters in. The second time, it is breathtaking.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:37 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn, BLEW MY MIND (at 19). I tried to reread it a few years ago - whoa. I'm actually embarrassed to have it on my shelf now. I need to find a 19 year old to give it to.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:59 PM on September 30, 2010


First thing I did was Ctrl-F for Phantom Tollbooth, because she got to my copy; hide your own. That was when I knew I couldn't re-read Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.
posted by salvia at 9:10 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, and funny about that picture because my Kingsolver books also fell victim.
posted by salvia at 9:12 PM on September 30, 2010


> Don't get me started on Heinlein. He pretty much wrote the same book over and over.

Hah, that's been a calumny on him since back in the day!

And yet he wrote Waldo, Magic Inc., Job, The Unpleasant Professional of Jonathan Hoag (and those collected short stories), The Puppet Masters, all those juveniles and not one of them fits into the stereotype you mentioned....
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:41 PM on September 30, 2010


...Ender's Game

Oh, dear. Once I realized that Card is an outspoken, unapologetic ultra-militarist Republican homophobe and that this series is basically a pro-violence screed, I've been unable to read this or any of his other stuff...

See this and this and even this.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:45 PM on September 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


THREE WORDS.

JONATHAN. LIVINGSTON. SEAGULL.
posted by humannaire at 9:50 PM on September 30, 2010


On the other hand, it's really nice to re-read or re-watch something and see things that went WAY over your head when you were younger. Richard Pryor presenting the alphabet is a lot funnier after you've heard his actual comedy.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:17 PM on September 30, 2010


Sci-fi seems a recurring theme. I'd personally list KSR's work, not that it sucks (by sci-fi standards), just that it seemed so much more brilliant at the time than it did later
posted by moorooka at 10:28 PM on September 30, 2010


The X-Files. Have you watched that show recently?

A few years ago I thought it would be fun to run through them again. The experience was... bad. Horrifying at a cellular level. Like revisiting a beloved childhood home only to find it's a paperboard whorehouse and realizing that it was like that all along but you never noticed.

I felt so alone and confused. Now I know: Suck Fairy.

(Still not as bad as the experience of re-reading Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn as an adult. WOW.)
posted by ErikaB at 10:50 PM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm just guessing that Donna Tartt's The Secret History, which I remember fondly, has been Swiss-cheesed by Suck fairy magic. I don't even want to know what Amazon reviewers think of it these days... you can never step in the same river twice.
posted by mumkin at 11:04 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I haven't had this experience much with books, but I did have a nasty jolt when I got the boxed set of "Darkwing Duck." I remember that show being so very, very hilariously awesome...
posted by Scattercat at 11:24 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Playboy July 1972.

I loved that issue, I wanted Miss August.

Now not so much.
posted by pianomover at 11:37 PM on September 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


mumkin, I just read The Secret History for the fourth time, and it felt like the Suck Fairy had engaged in a serious flirtation with the book, but nothing more. I don't know that I'll ever read it a fifth time.
posted by k8lin at 11:46 PM on September 30, 2010


The X-Files. Have you watched that show recently?

Say what you will, the first four seasons remain pure awesome.
posted by mek at 12:05 AM on October 1, 2010


If you still admire Orson Scott Card, make sure to read the last of lupus_wonderboy's links up there. Dear god.

From that link:
He was there with another SF writer whose name you would recognize less from his SF than from a popular column he wrote for a computer magazine.

That makes me sputter a bit, because about the only thing I really know about Orson Scott Card is that he once wrote for Compute, which is starting to make me see conspiracies on the staff of old computer mags.
posted by JHarris at 3:12 AM on October 1, 2010


I thought this part was particularly insightful:
Worst of all, that wonderful bit you always remembered, the bit where they swim into the captured city under the water gate at dawn, and when they come out of the water in the first light and stand dripping on the quay, it all smells different because the enemy’s campfires are cooking their different food—it turns out to be half a line. “Next morning we went in by the water gate.” This most typically happens with re-reading children’s books. It’s like the moral opposite of skimming, where you’ve dreamed in extra details the book never mentioned. The thin thing you’re re-reading can’t possibly be what you remember, because what you remember mostly happened in your head.
Sometimes, the reason it sucks now is that you've lost the imaginative power you had when you were younger.

As with any kind of art or entertainment, a reader isn't just a passive receptacle: your imagination partly creates the experience.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 3:19 AM on October 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


The exception that tests the rule: last year I picked up some re-issues of Michael Moorcock juvenile adventure novels (The Eternal Champion, The Jewel in The Skull) at a garage sale. While I could never re-discover the context of discovering them at 15, the craftsmanship and understated irony of them actually held up reasonably well.
posted by ovvl at 5:11 AM on October 1, 2010


> It is crazy to me how many of the books or authors listed in this thread were the first ones
> that came to mind when I read the FPP. And none of them were children's books. It's like
> there's some objective quality that makes some books susceptible.
> posted by nev at 8:30 PM on September 30 [+] [!]

Kids' books you re-read because you're reading them aloud to a new generation of kids - a shocking number of these laugh at the suck fairy. Assuming you liked Ozma of Oz even once, it just keeps getting better.
posted by jfuller at 5:20 AM on October 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


ovvl, I was going to say the same thing. All Moorcock fantasy and sci-fi is readily devourable when one is twelve, but there is a huge quality gap between the best-of-genres you mentioned and dreck like the first three Corum books. The most uneven is the ever-expanding Elric series, which contains works of true greatness right alongside paid-by-the-word-just-plain-badness. It's really tough to tell those apart when you're twelve—hey, all the stories have Elric and Stormbringer, right? The first book was good, these other books must be good too!
posted by infinitewindow at 5:32 AM on October 1, 2010


Playboy July 1972.

I loved that issue, I wanted Miss August.


Why was Miss August in the July issue?

This post reminds me of a post from a few days ago. Great links, smart discussion in the first few comments. Then I went back the next day and the discussion had devolved into a series of sarcastic one-liners. Clearly the thread had been visited by the Snark Fairy.
posted by TedW at 7:39 AM on October 1, 2010


empath: (about Foucault's Pendulum) I did read it again... that was the problem. :-)

Seriously, though, I get it, and whatnot. I think for me the semiotic ideas have been worn thin enough to no longer carry the fundamentally scattered plot and weak characters. When I read it the first time I hadn't ever really encountered the whole map/territory thing, nor most of the historical legend. But at this point I've spent half my life reading various takes on pretty much the same thing. So it's kind of "See Spot run..." now.

Also it suffers terribly from comparison with Pynchon, who deals with a lot of the same issues and themes but much, much more successfully. I suspect Pynchon is almost entirely to blame for the Suck Fairy's visit to Foucault.
posted by rusty at 8:05 AM on October 1, 2010


So you're telling me not to try to re-read The Secret of NIMH? Man, I loved that book. This is depressing.
posted by Hildegarde at 8:09 AM on October 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would note that the Suck doesn't necessarily happen if you're reading some of these for the first time as an adult (depending on quality). The let-down has to do with the changed impression, I think, not that the material is (again, necessarily) trash. I'm reading Fritz Leiber's Swords(...) tales for the first time, and while there's a certain understanding that I would probably have enjoyed them more at 15, I still enjoy them quite a lot. Were I to do the same with, I dunno... the endless Robert Jordan output, I suspect it would be a different matter.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:34 AM on October 1, 2010


Did I just call it endless? Ouch. Sorry about that.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:35 AM on October 1, 2010


THREE WORDS.

JONATHAN. LIVINGSTON. SEAGULL.


No man, that was suck all the way through.

Now, Mike Mulligan. THAT was a book!
posted by SPUTNIK at 9:08 AM on October 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


JHarris: ...the only thing I really know about Orson Scott Card is that he once wrote for Compute...
I'm guessing the computer magazine columnist in question is Byte columnist Jerry Pournelle, who writes fiction that always makes war sound like great fun.

Yeesh. I knew Pournelle was pro-guns, but the localroger story and Pournelle's obviously self-edited Wikipedia bio make him sound most unpleasant through and through.

I once loved Ender's Game but I've come to find Card's work sickening in lockstep with my discovery that Card himself was sickening. Card is the reason I try to avoid learning too much about the real life of authors, actors, musicians, and artists I'm enjoying.
posted by Western Infidels at 9:13 AM on October 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I had an Awesome Fairy visitation experience with Discworld. I read the first 8 or so, and thought they were OK, but that I'd had my fill. Then everyone was raving about Small Gods, so I read that and was underwhelmed.

Fast forward a decade or so till I read a copy of Lords and Ladies I found in a box of discarded books on the street (I get more books this way than you'd probably guess -- yay for Berkeley's bibliophilia and love of recycling.) And it was awesome, and I've been reading the rest of the Discworld books ever since, consciously pacing myself so I don't run out.

Still haven't reread the old ones, but, as of now, I expect to be rereading Discworld for the rest of my life.
posted by Zed at 9:50 AM on October 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


This happened to me recently with "Venus and Mars" by Paul McCartney.

But Letting Go is a kinda groovy tune, if you like that sort of thing.
Actually, McCartney has always mixed obviously sucky tunes with groovy tunes ever since The Beatles.
posted by ovvl at 2:04 PM on October 1, 2010


I wonder if Borderland holds up. There's a new set of stories coming out next May.
posted by homunculus at 9:44 PM on October 1, 2010


I've been lucky to avoid the suck fairy, mostly by avoiding rereading stuff I liked as a kid. Isaac Asimov and the Robotech book series probably just wouldn't be the same.

There are things that (for me at least) seem to get hit by a reverse suck fairy. I didn't like "The Great Gatsby" the first time I read it but have come to love it. The same with "The Sun Also Rises."

With Kurt Vonnegut books, I thought they would be a suck fairy target, but I've actually liked them more on rereading some of them.
posted by drezdn at 6:35 AM on October 2, 2010


"Who rereads books? What, have you already read all the books?"

I've been encountering more and more people with this attitude over the past few years. I find it pretty bizarre, but it's not as alarming as people who don't have any books at all in their entire house in any format.


Uh, I should say not.

I read slowly and attentively, and repeat a book's best passages over and over as I go, so it's rare that I both love a book enough and forget enough about it to make reading it a second (let alone a third and fourteenth!) time worthwhile. I'm the same about movies, but want to hear songs I like more times than anyone I know. Is it alarming that other people can't listen to Please Mr Postman 125 times in a row? They probably just heard it right the first time.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 7:46 AM on October 2, 2010


I'm the same about movies, but want to hear songs I like more times than anyone I know. Is it alarming that other people can't listen to Please Mr Postman 125 times in a row?

Enjoy.
posted by empath at 8:32 AM on October 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Some of us are blessed with absolutely awful memories, so we can enjoy many books for the first time over and over.
posted by rusty at 10:52 AM on October 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


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